Brussels at eve of II lockdown

Brussels 18.10.2020 The sector of hospitality is in total disappointment, injustice, disaster, shock. The sector does not have strong enough words to describe the measure taken by the Concertation Committee: the closure of all restaurants and cafes in the country as of Monday, October 19 for a period of four weeks. “We were prepared to accept interim measures like a 11 p.m. shutdown, or even 10 p.m. if necessary”, but the authorities were not open to negotiations, said Thierry Neyens, president of the Wallonia Horeca Federation.

Brussels, rue de Marché aux Fromages, 18 October 2020

A new closure of the Horeca has been a decision received with tears, a real blow to the hospitality sector, facing the second lockdown in the atmosphere of the financial uncertainty dominates. However nobody knows if the shutdown will actually last for a month or more. There is also uncertainty over the amount of aid promised by governments.

“It’s a cleaver, it’s a misunderstanding, it’s very painful to hear. The entire sector has reacted on social networks. We believe we are being sacrificed, punished. We have a lack of prospects. There is a I think there is even a little disrespect for an entire sector which has made a lot of effort, ” underlined  Thierry Neyens.

Brussels, Grand Sablon, 18 October 2020

Following the Concertation Committee on Friday, October 16, a curfew was declared by the federal government. As of Monday, October 19, it will be forbidden to leave your home between midnight and 5 a.m.

The Horeca represents more than 60,000 companies in Belgium.

Brussels, Grand Place neighbourhood, 18 October 2020

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Belgium since the declaration of the pandemic by WHO in March now stands at 213,115. The total reflects all people in Belgium who have been infected, and includes confirmed active cases as well as patients who have since recovered, or died.

Brussels, Grand Place, 18 October 2018

During curfew, take-out food orders can be made until 10 p.m. in restaurants. Some establishments have the option of transforming into a catering service. A solution to try to cover the fixed costs, but many will keep their doors closed.

Brussels, Grand Place, 18 October 2020

Meanwhile in Sweden the government wishes to exempt restaurants, bars and cafés from the specific rules for public events, the Culture Minister Amanda Lind announced at the press conference. The exemption for bars and restaurants came into effect on October 8th. After this date, restaurants were no longer a subject to the 50-person limit in case they host events, but they should continue to comply with the existing restrictions for restaurants including table service only and a one-metre distance between groups of people, the Local reports.

Brussels, rue Royale, 18 October 2020

#COVID19: Scientists against lockdown

Brussels 16.10.2020 REVIEW: From October 1-4, 2020, the American Institute for Economic Research hosted a remarkable meeting of top epidemiologists, economists, and journalists, to discuss the global emergency created by the unprecedented use of state compulsion in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic. The result is The Great Barrington Declaration, which urges a “Focused Protection” strategy. (Image above: EU Council 15-16 October, Brussels).

DECLARATION:
he Great Barrington Declaration – As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.

Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection… (Full text on the site: https://gbdeclaration.org )

Curfew against virus

Brussels 14.10.2020 Tonight the speech of President Macron is awaited in many EU capitals: will he apply method of curfew as a tool of defeating COVID-19 pandemic also in the Hexagone? Neighbouring Belgium has already imposed this drastic measure from 14 October in some provinces.

Several French media evoked the possibility of curfews in the most affected territories of the V-th Republic, the strategy promoted by the president of the National Academy of Medicine, the former Minister of Health Jean-François Mattéi.

The curfew option is also being considered by the Covid-19 Scientific Council in an alert note dated September 22. The body chaired by Jean-François Delfraissy recalls that a curfew has notably been introduced in Guyana, where Jean Castex went shortly after his appointment to Matignon.

At this stage of the epidemic, the Scientific Council does not envisage proposing the option (of a curfew) at the national level, but cannot exclude its use in certain metropolitan areas and of course in the event of deterioration. later ”, the text of this note reads, which mentions curfews for a period of a fortnight.

On Monday, October 12, referring to a “very difficult” situation facing the “reality of a second epidemic wave”, the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, did not rule out the new period of re-confinement in the country where the health crisis will last according to him several more months. (However the World Bank in its documents mentions 15 month of the second wave).

“General re-confinement must be avoided by all means,” the head of government told France Info, referring to the “absolutely dramatic” consequences of such a drastic measure. “Nothing should be excluded when we see the situation in our hospitals,” he replied when asked about possible local.

The Scientific Council warns that the population’s support for such a measure would be “probably weak, with detrimental effects in terms of social cohesion and confidence” and indicates that its economic cost would be “all the greater as it occurs. after a first period of confinement and that it feeds negative economic expectations with potentially disastrous effects ”.

As in other European countries, France is facing a marked deterioration in health indicators this autumn. The threshold of 1,500 patients treated in intensive care for a Covid-19 infection was crossed again on Monday for the first time since May 27.

One of the leading world experts in virology Professor Didier Raoult initially regretted “the global state of nervous crisis in which the country is dived”, while invited by CNews to comment on certain measures taken by political authorities in regions of France to slow the spread of Covid-19.

“It is beyond reason and understanding,” he proclaims. “This leads to adopting strategies that put more health at risk.”

#TBT: BRAFA Art Fair

Brussels 1.10.2020 In the evening of the first day of October a sad for the art lovers news came – the cancellation of the Brussels Fine Art Fair 2021 due to volatile COVID-19 pandemic context. (Images: @AnnaVanDensky)

The members of the non-profit organisation (organiser of the BRAFA Art Fair) held an Extraordinary General Meeting during which they decided to postpone the event to 2022.

The first ever BRAFA was held in the Arlequin Hall of the Galerie Louiza in 1956. Charles Van Hove and Mamy Wouters, the long standing President and Vice-President of the Belgian Chamber of Antiques Dealers, were behind the initiative to set up the salon. This first Belgian Antiques Fair or ‘Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique’, as it was known then, followed in the footsteps of the fairs already held at Grosvenor House in London and at the Prinsenhof in Delft, but preceded those set up in Paris, Florence and Munich.

The growing success of the fair and the increasing number of participants meant that a location had to be found capable of keeping up with the event’s development. The range of art objects on display also continued to expand. From 1967 to 2003, the fair was held in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Up until 1994, only Belgian antiques dealers who were members of the Royal Chamber of Antique Dealers could take part in the fair which was, at the time, a purely national event. The number of participants fluctuated between forty and fifty.

The first major change occurred in 1995 when Christian de Bruyn opened the fair to foreign antique dealers for the first time. The Belgian antique dealers saw this as a revolutionary step and they were right; in no time the fair had outgrown the Palais des Beaux-Arts and a new, much bigger location had to be found. In 2004 the Belgian Antiques Fair therefore moved to Tour & Taxis, a gem of Belgian industrial architectural heritage situated in the north of Brussels, next to the Willebroek canal. Now that exhibition space was no longer restricted, the BRAFA actively sought to increase the number of participants. Having started with no more than twenty Belgian antique dealers it grew to incorporate about one hundred and thirty exhibitors from both Belgium and abroad in the space of a few years. The fair is now recognized worldwide as one of the leading international fairs in Europe.

BRAFA, or the Brussels Art Fair, is one of the longest running art and antiques fairs in the world and is organized every year by the nonprofit Belgian Antiques Fair Association.

The uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe is the main reason for the postponement. BRAFA, which is traditionally the first top international fine art fair of the year, showcases 130 exhibitors on average, of which two thirds come from abroad.

Last year, the fair welcomed a record number of 68,000 visitors, collectors and professionals, including a significant number from neighbouring countries. The current health situation and its potential evolution this autumn and winter have caused serious concerns. New restrictions on intra-European travel related to coronavirus pandemic and the safety measures imposed by the authorities have only added to the fear of the organisers.

Strasbourg plagued by COVID19

Anna van Densky, Brussels 25.09.2020 The opening of October European Parliament session in Strasbourg does not look promising for the Members of the European Parliament, while the significant for the city business event for 2.200 participants has been cancelled today over sanitary situation #360GrandEst.

The planned September Plenary in Strasbourg was cancelled and took place in Brussels, and it is highly likely the similar situation is awaiting for both October sessions scheduled in the hauntingly beautiful capital of Grand Est region of France.

As is clear to us all, we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency. We had hoped before the summer break that we would be returning to some degree of normality. Unfortunately, this is not the case and we find our countries still greatly affected by the pandemic. The rate of infection has increased, leading to the adoption of new containment measures by national governments.

“For this reason, and on the basis of information provided by the French medical services and authorities, I regretfully took the decision not to hold the plenary session in Strasbourg for this September session”  wrote David Sassoli, the president of the Europarl.

“…I am grateful to the French authorities for their understanding and their constant collaboration in these difficult months. On behalf of all our members, I extend a warm greeting to the mayor and people of Strasbourg, where we hope to return soon.”  Sassoli concluded, however it the sanitary situation in France does not look encouraging for travel to host the MEP “soon”.

1992 decision formalised a situation that already existed at the time and which reflected compromises arrived at over a number of years.

When the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up a few years after WWII, in 1952, establishing joint management of the steel and coal reserves of six countries, including Germany and France, its institutions were located in Luxembourg. The Council of Europe (an intergovernmental body made up of 47 countries championing human rights and culture was also set up in the immediate post-WW2 period), was already based in Strasbourg and it offered its plenary chamber for meetings of the ECSC’s “Common Assembly”, which was to develop into the European Parliament. Strasbourg gradually became the main home of plenary sessions of the Parliament, though additional sessions were also held in Luxembourg in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the creation of the European Economic Community in 1958, much of the work done by the European Commission and the Council of Ministers came to be concentrated in Brussels. Since Parliament’s work involves closely monitoring and interacting with both these institutions, over time Members decided to organise more of their work in Brussels. By the early nineties, the present arrangement was more or less in place, with committees and political groups meeting in Brussels and the main plenary sessions taking place in Strasbourg. A major part of Parliament’s staff is based in Luxembourg.

E-Tourism: long-term work and leisure fusion..

Anna Van Densky OPINION The latest edition of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) – World Tourism Barometer concluded that the near-complete lockdown imposed in response to the pandemic led to a 98% fall in international tourist flows in May when compared to last year.

The Barometer also indicated a 56% year-on-year drop in tourist arrivals between January and May. This data signified a fall of 300 million tourists and US$320 billion lost in international tourism profits – more than three times worse than during the Global Economic Crisis of 2009.

However the dramatic disruptions of the traditional tourism caused by pandemic, can also conceive new forms and incentives for travellers, venturing advantages of long-term «e-tourism».

Nowadays the new cyber-age technologies enable travelers to work from any hotspot providing broadband internet, the opportunity transcending the traditional forms of vacation built on antithesis of work-leisure, and integrating work into classic leisure environments, creating fusion of both.

«Telework tourism» opens new perspectives for individuals, couples, families, and groups, who are interested to combine a possibility of a new format of
remote office work, and leisure in a foreign country for a basic period of three months (in some cases up to six months with a relevant insurance).

Taking into consideration the most immediate and lasting lifestyle changes caused by the pandemic, the major trend – a remote work tourism, can become a must and vogue for «office people». The opportunities are equally open for employees, and self-employed, who have reformatted their modus operandi to tele-communications; and certaliny for representatives of intellectual and free professions as authors, writers, editors, publishers; not least those who are in education and academia system, as lecturers, instructors, tutors, researchers, Ph.D students, who have had already a sufficient level of autonomy and capabilities to realise their work remotely. As a result we will soon witness the birth of the entire Nomadic e-communities venturing resorts on six continents.

Within the new pandemic context the toursim sector might develop new concepts to broaden the spectrum of services, offering to the potenial travellers ideas and models of new, adapted e-lifestyle, discoveering positive sides of teleworking, moving to different settings, and environments, combining work and leisure for a significanly longer period of time, which previously has been a luxury available for senior citizens only.

Before the pandemic disruption the European tourism has been going through a period of intense development also as a result of the status of ‘industry’ it was attributed in the EU, creating jobs and generating impressive profits.
One of the achievements of these developments is the highest level of quality of the services in products offered by the industry of hospitality responding to the diversity of demands, and scale of financial opportunities of the travellers, which nowadays with a broadband can be enjoyed for a significantly longer period of time.

And after all, may be new age technology offers us much more interesting ways of spending life than we could have ever imagined before? The nascent trend for long-term «teleworking tourism» in the setting of traditional resorts is shaped by download speeds of 2.8 Mbps for HD quality, providing modern standard tele-conferencing for the working travellers, enjoying wonders of the Cyber Age.

In today’s rapidly changing world invaded by volatility the working e-travelling is the long-term trend to stay: bon voyage!

German leadership in EU mulitcrisis era

Anna van Densky OPINION The German presidency of the Council of the European Union takes lead on 1 July 2020 in the context of the global COVID-19 crisis, and the EU ante-pandemic challanges, which have been already serious enough to be assessed as the “existential” threats to the organisation.

The first half of the year the global COVID-19 context has been negatively impacting long existing EU challenges, namely the well-known process of post-Brexit talks with the United Kingdom, aiming to produce an agreement to diminish damages to the European economies of “hard” Brexit; and not less significant EU agreement on the future seven year budget (multiannual financial framework) for the 27 members strong bloc without the UK – the second net contributor.

None of the ante-COVID19 challenges seem to be diminishing, on contrary, the Brexit talks are in libmo, so is the future budget, dividing the EU in groups of wealthy countries of the North, and indebted Mediterranean – pre-existing North-South divide is becoming even more dramatic after pandemic. The so-called “Frugal Four” – Austria, Denmark, Finland and The Netherlands – will hardly change their minds in favour of the South, reflecting the will of their citizens. Finanical Ice Age approaching, will the EU, especially the Visegrad East European countries, withstand it? They have been used to recipient role within the organisation, and they might object to any other.

However outside the EU the challenges are not less impressive: it is on the November 3 Americans will go to ballot boxes to elect their new President, producing a long-lasting effect on the entire set of international relations, and global development.

The EU dialogue with Russia, a former “strategic partner” and well-establish American foe is also on the brink, plagued in different dimensions internationally both by the conflict in Donbass, and U.S. sanctions blocking the construction of final 160 km of Nord Stream 2 pipeline, delivering gas via the sea from Russia to Germany.

The energy issues, and conflict are not limited to the EU Eastern borders, because the situation in the Mediterranean became even more alarming with the new Turkish assertiveness, pursuing gaz drilling in Cyprus waters, and casually threatening with massive release of migrants to Greece.

Migrants! And here we come to a sensitive issue, because still there is public opinion, blaming the German Chancellor her generous invitation to “all refugees”, which created the notorious migrant crisis in 2015 – swinging in a few months from Willkommenskultur to Flushtilingskrise. Since then there have been no acute migrant crisis of the similar scale, but an ongoing political systemic crisis over the issue, without unanimously agreed strategy towards exterior migration flows into EU, splitting the Union into antagonising communities. So far the Visegrad 4 group of East European countries firmly rejects the reception of migrants, occasionally ready to allocate funds.

In January this year, addressing Davos, Angela Merkel said, that it was a mistake to miss out of view the refugees as a direct consequence of conflict, and not to create an environment, where people can stay, without need to flee. Concluding German migrant experience, Angela Merkel, warned about possible next wave of refugees caused by military actions in Libya. But reflecting upon Chancellors’s words, there is no secret that solidarity does not really work in the realm of migration issues, and in post-pandemic period the migrant/refugee unsolved problem will re-emerge again. The only element about migration is consensual among member-states: Dublin system is obsolete. Will German presidency produce a new migration package in co-operation with the European Commission? The escalating conflict in Libya, and growing terrorist threat in Sahel, might create in the nearest future a significant pressure of migrant flows via Mediterranean route, resulting in raise of the eurosceptic moods in the Member-States.

The German presidency of EU will also ‘crown’ personally Angela Merkel’s fourth and final term of leadership after 15 years in the Federal Chancellery. Well-known for her capacity of reaching compromises, erecting solid political consturctions through multilateral agreements, she is expected to navigate between Scylla and Charybdis of the EU politics. Will Macron-Merkel initiative put forward on May 2020 – the stimulus fund – become a further step for European integration, solidifying the seamless transnational market enshrined by Kohl-Mitterand in Maastricht Treaty? Or the Eurosceptic forces will start pulling it apart, fragmenting and polarising communities, and the European nations, attempting to find the solutions to systemic crisises in individual ways?..

Whatever the outcome of German presidency will be, the decisions taken within next six months will shape the live of the next generation of Europeans and model the face of Europe up to the mid of the 21 century in a unique irreversible way.

Image: Angela Merkel, EU Council, archive